The Number One Way to Get What You Want

So…there’s an interesting trend to report in the life of Deirdre. At first it might sound like it’s the high-and-mighty variety, but I promise you it’s not.

The trend? People tend to give me things I want.

A few examples:

  • The guy in front of me at Starbucks let me go ahead of him in line because I was in a hurry (and he had a loooong list of drink orders for everyone back at the office)
  • My boss let me cross-train on a new position I was interested in, which led me to get a better job just a few weeks later (this was years ago, back when I had a boss who wasn’t me)
  • The awesome woman at my supermarket’s sushi counter made up a special, fresh veggie roll with lots of avocado…just for me

blog - ida

To again be clear, there’s nothing high-and-mighty about any of this. People don’t give me what I want because they think I’m all that.

People give me what I want because I ask for it.

Stay with me. This isn’t as obvious as this sounds.

I wrote a blog post a few years ago about the need to be explicit when asking for things. At the time I thought the biggest barrier to people getting what they wanted was that they hinted instead of asking directly.

Since then I’ve figured out that, for many, the issue isn’t about how they ask for things.

It’s that they don’t ask at all.

It happens all the time to all kinds of people…

  • To people who prefer a morning meeting with their potential client…but wind up meeting at end of the day when they’re exhausted
  • To people who prefer to have lots of mustard on their sandwich…and wind up with a light wisp of it
  • To people in the office who prefer to work a different schedule, try a new task, create a new style of report…and just wind up stuck in the same situation as always

It’s a simple concept. The number one way to get what you want is to ask for it. And yet, so often, people don’t.

There are many reasons for this, and they are understandable. They don’t want to offend anybody. They don’t want to put anybody out. They don’t want to seem pushy.

And so they sit back and hope things go the way they want, acting as the passive player on something that, in all likelihood, matters more to them than to the other person.

I get the concerns about upsetting people, of course. And sure, there are times when the request for something might truly be offensive or unreasonable.


There are so many times, if we just ask nicely for what we want, people will have no problem with it. Trust me…I know this intimately. Because I’ve learned a few things from this ask-for-what-you-want strategy.

  • I’ve learned that, a lot of the time, the other person simply hasn’t known that something mattered to me until I told them. So it’s no big deal.
  • I’ve learned that, a lot of the time, the other person hasn’t even thought of this option until I’ve asked for it. So it’s no big deal.
  • I’ve learned that, a lot of the time, it’s no problem at all because the other person honestly doesn’t care. Seriously, it doesn’t matter to them at all. So it’s no big deal.

Sometimes, in fact, giving me what I want makes the other person smile, because they know they’re making someone’s day (really, who doesn’t like extra avocado on their veggie roll?!).  And when I heartily thank them, they appreciate it.

Have there been times I’ve been told no? Of course! But that’s always been fine, because I go into it knowing that a no is a possibility, because I start out my request with a smile so it doesn’t make things weird, and because, in the end, sometimes we don’t get what we want.

But a whole lot of people can get it a whole lot more than they think.

So give it a go…try it with something small. Chances are, you might just find you get what you want more…

…and life just might get a little more delicious.

blog - dee

Now go do good…and do it well.

PS: Special thanks to Ida at the Ralphs in downtown San Diego for always being so friendly and accommodating…and for being such an awesome veggie-roll maker!


10 responses to “The Number One Way to Get What You Want”

  1. Mark Burgess Avatar

    Asking for what you want requires two important things to be true: first, you have to know what you want; second, you must verbalize it. The former is the more difficult task as it requires knowledge of the choices when often we don’t know something exists to ask for it – a frequent problem for clients paying for website development: if they stick to what they are able to request they miss taking advantage of the developers wider experience in the subject. “I want a Contact Us form to email to me” really means they want a way to collect email addresses to communicate en-masse with a prospects. Integrating with an eblast system serves the purpose significantly better than one-off email messages. The second part…verbalizing – requires a level of forethought and self-awareness that is easy to surrender when gutting out the long wait in traffic to get to work. And, there’s a third element at play: worthiness. If you don’t feel worthy and want the universe to acknowledge your value unsolicited, you might have to stand in line at Starbucks a little longer. True self esteem is not in plentiful supply.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      All interesting points, Mark…thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  2. Moody Blue Avatar
    Moody Blue

    “What are they going to say? No?” has been one of our family mottos I have raised my children with. It never hurts to ask. More times than not you will enjoy the rewards since you did ask, that you are no worse off if the answer is no. My kids have grown up without the fear of asking.
    I share this philosophy with all my friends, thanks for sharing with your’s!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      How great that you taught your kids this at such an early age…what a gift to them (and the others around you who’ve gotten to hear this wisdom)!

  3. Patty Avatar

    Thanks you Deirdre. You are so on target. I used to hint about what I wanted thinking that someone would respond and then felt hurt when they didn’t. Ask and you shall receive OR NOT but at least you tried.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      And there’s nothing wrong with trying, right? Thanks for the great comment Patty!

  4. Jim Tenuto Avatar
    Jim Tenuto

    Asking them to speak has landed Marshall Goldsmith, Chip Conley (twice) and Steve Baker (from The Great Game of Business.) I’ve had plenty of “no” answers but the yesses make up for them.

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      I’m with you, Jim. I actually got Marshall to endorse my book by asking. Gotta love the power of a simple request!

  5. Sarah Avatar

    I love this and believe it 100%. It is a challenge sometimes as a women in the corporate sector to really ask for what you want and be seen and heard. So how you ask is important – your tone, your eye contact, your posture. I have found if you do it with confidence in yourself and (a smile for extra avocado or foam on my cappuccino) , people do listen 🙂 Thanks for a great piece!

    1. Deirdre Maloney Avatar

      You’re so right, Sarah…doing it is the first step, but HOW you do it is just as important. Thanks for giving the post a read!